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Coca-Cola uncaps lid on loyalty with stronger mobile focus

Coca-Cola is attempting to redefine loyalty programs with a revamped My Coke Rewards platform that features a bigger focus on mobile and suggests consumers prefer receiving perks and engaging with brands via bite-sized pieces of social media and personalized content over traditional rewards.

Coca-Cola has revamped the loyalty program to place a stronger focus on mobile and content-based solutions, such as social media. Members of My Coke Rewards can now interact with bite-sized pieces of interactive content and activities that are optimized for all mobile platforms, and offer perks to bump up customers to Bronze, Silver and Gold status levels.

?Mobile is a strategic high-ground, in loyalty,? said Sean Claessen, executive vice president of strategy and creative at Bond Brand Loyalty, Toronto, Canada. ?It's, at once, a combination of communication conduit, unique identifier, and payment vehicle.

?Mobile adds utility to marketing, in a way that loyal customers appreciate, as part of an improved customer experience. As with any strategic high ground, it can't be abused - so Coke needs to respect the intimacy of this inbox, and the privacy of these pockets.?

Bond Brand Loyalty is not affiliated with Coca-Cola or My Coke Rewards, but agreed to comment as an expert on loyalty programs.

Shareable media
The beverage brand is leveraging the new rewards platform to create a more emotional connection with customers, which includes centering activities around topics that consumers are passionate about, including gaming, cooking and fitness.

Users are invited to sign into the platform via weekly special codes found on Coca-Cola beverage caps. Consumers can then explore the variety of offerings available, one of which includes videos of professional snowboarders showing off tricks.

?Many of today?s scaled-up digitized loyalty program experiences, while convenient, efficient and generally effective in driving incremental sales, are largely impersonal, maybe even a little rote and cool to the touch,? said Scott Robinson, senior director of loyalty consulting and solutions at Bond Brand Loyalty, Toronto. ?Brands must, as Coke is endeavoring to achieve with the re-launch of its MyCoke Rewards, seek to create for customers a warmer, more engaging and emotionally-rich experience for customers.?

They are then invited to upload personal photos while hitting the slopes themselves, using a specific hashtag, that will garner them more rewards points.

Once customers reach a certain amount of points, the program?s tracker will alert them of their new status level, which ranges from Bronze to Gold. Users can then access the designated rewards catalog for that status level to peruse the perks available to them, which include items such as coupons for a free beverage, wireless headphones, an Amazon gift card and tickets to special events for the highest earners.

Unclaimed rewards will appear in the user?s personal profile.

?The orientation of the program specifically towards a member?s interests is a powerful way to tailor the program experience directly to what matters most to the individual (?Pursue your passions, we'll sweeten the deal?),? said Zach Woith, senior director of loyalty strategy, 500 Friends, a Merkle company, San Francisco, CA. ?This approach empowers members to get the most out of their program experience  - yet also reconciles the challenge the program has in resonating across a vast member base with diverse interests. 

?This approach to connect the opportunities for consuming and sharing content within the context of specific interest areas will not only heighten participation, but also create distinct ?communities? of My Coke Rewards members from which to drive even deeper engagement.?

500 Friends is not affiliated with Coca-Cola or My Coke Rewards, but agreed to comment as an expert on loyalty programs.

Corporate social responsibility
Coca-Cola is also ramping up corporate social responsibility efforts by enabling users to donate their My Coke Rewards points to special causes and schools instead of redeeming for material rewards.

Available places to donate to include United Service Organizations, National Park Foundation, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, the Special Olympics, Goodwill, American Red Cross and St. Jude Children?s Research Hospital.

Coca-Cola is partnering with charitable giving solution Kula to convert the points into cash rewards for schools to purchase new supplies and technology with.

My Coke Rewards currently boasts 23 million active members, who can retain their point balance by signing into the site, MyCokeRewards.com, to accept the new terms and conditions.

?Increasingly, CPG brands are following Coke?s lead in establishing direct-to-consumer relationships, to engage those who buy their products in a way that doesn?t alienate those who sell their products,? Bond Brand Loyalty?s Mr. Robinson said. ?And consumers are responding ? higher trust, higher willingness to share personal info with CPG brands, higher satisfaction with CPG brand loyalty initiatives. 

?Joint value creation:  good for CPG brand, good for retailer partners.?

Coca-Cola is attempting to differentiate itself from competitors such as Starbucks by offering a slew of products other than branded beverages as rewards, which may be a big drawing factor for enticing consumers. If the brand sees success with My Coke Rewards, it could raise the bar for loyalty platforms across the entire sector, requiring food and beverage marketers to offer more gift cards and other branded products to compete.

Coca-Cola has started off 2015 with a magnifying glass on mobile, after rolling out a Super Bowl campaign that garnered strong results initially, but took a nosedive following a prank from an online bot (see story).

?The ability of the My Coke Rewards program to directly enable a two-way communication between the member and the brand is instrumental in optimizing channels of communication,? 500 Friends? Mr. Woith said. ?By capturing data points directly regarding the interactions of members with program content and related sharing activities, Coca-Cola is capturing data-rich insights on members? preferences to leverage in creating more personalized communication and more tailored content opportunities.

?In doing so, My Coke Rewards unlocks an opportunity to enable more engaging, relevant communication at the member-level while simultaneously capturing aggregate insights to better understand its program community at-large.?

Final Take
Alex Samuely is an editorial assistant on Mobile Marketer, New York